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Nuclear Costs

Estimates for new reactor construction costs continue to sky-rocket. Conservative estimates range between $6 and $12 billion per reactor but Standard & Poor's predicts a continued rise. The nuclear power industry is lobbying for heavy federal subsidization including unlimited loan guarantees but the Congressional Budget Office predicts the risk of default will be well over 50 percent, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill. Beyond Nuclear opposes taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies for the nuclear energy industry.

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Friday
Jan152010

Energy Secretary Chu vows to "accelerate" nuclear loan guarantees, while affirming Yucca dump's cancellation

Energy Secretary Steven Chu, at a briefing on the Department of Energy's priorities for 2010, admitted that finalizing the first round of $18.5 billion in taxpayer-backed nuclear loan guarantees for financing new atomic reactors has proven "more complicated" than he originally thought it would be. Chu assured that the first nuclear loan guarantees would be issued "soon," despite the fact that DOE's top pick candidates are plagued with problems: the partners behind the proposed South Texas Project "Advanced Boiling Water Reactors" are embroiled in a $32 billion internecine legal dispute; the AP1000s planned at Vogtle GA and Summer SC have a major safety related design flaw, as does the Areva "Evolutionary Power Reactor" targeted at Calvert Cliffs MD. On a brighter note, Chu affirmed that "Yucca Mountain is off the table," and added that his blue ribbon commission, established to study alternatives to Yucca, will not be charged with identifying a new centralized geologic repository to take its place. This raises the specter, however, that dirty, dangerous, and expensive reprocessing may be pushed as the latest "illusion of a solution" to the radioactive waste dilemma.

Thursday
Jan142010

FPL halts two new reactors targeted at Turkey Point!

In what appears to be a major victory for anti-nuclear efforts in Florida, the state's Public Utility Commission  (PUC) has rejected Florida Power and Light's (FPL) request for a massive electricity rate increase, which would have largely gone to pay for two new Toshiba-Westinghouse AP-1000 reactors at its Turkey Point nuclear power plant near Miami. This victory is all the more significant, in that the State of Florida had already empowered its PUC to approve "Construction Work in Progress," charging ratepayers on their bills in advance to build new reactors, many years before any electricity is actually delivered. However, the PUC has decided to refuse such charges.  FPL responded by halting its plans to pursue the two new reactors past the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing phase. Thus, continued anti-nuclear vigilance will be required, as FPL will undoubtedly try again to force its ratepayers to bear the financial burdens and risks of building new reactors, while offering little to none of the projected profits in return. David Kraft of Nuclear Energy Information Service in Chicago asserts that this decision could well set back the nuclear power relapse nation-wide.

Monday
Jan112010

ESBWR design may soon dwindle to a single proposed new reactor in U.S.

Detroit Edison may be the only nuclear utility in the U.S. to continue standing by the General Electric-Hitachi "Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor" (ESBWR) design if Dominion Nuclear of Virginia abandons it. Dominion is reported to now be considering a new Areva EPR or Westinghouse-Toshiba AP1000 reactor, instead of an ESBWR at its North Anna nuclear power plant in Virginia. Beyond Nuclear has helped lead the environmental coalition effort to block a new ESBWR targeted at Detroit Edison's Fermi nuclear power plant in Monroe, Michigan -- most recently raising quality assurance contentions regarding the ESBWR design and the Fermi 3 new reactor license application. Dominion's cold shoulder would be an especially bad blow to the ESBWR design, given North Anna is the reference reactor for the design -- meaning it was supposed to set precedents for NRC licensing decisions for ESBWRs proposed across the U.S. However, about a year ago, Entergy and other nuclear utility coalition partners in NuStart decided to abandon the ESBWR proposed at River Bend, LA; Entergy also abandoned an ESBWR proposed at Grand Gulf, MS; and Exelon abandoned two ESBWRs targeted at Victoria County Station, TX. This begs the question -- what doesn't Detroit Edison get that these other nuclear utilities do about the problems with the ESBWR design? DOE also seems to understand the ESBWR's problems -- DOE has indicated it will not grant taxpayer-backed loan guarantees to ESBWR proposals at the present time.

Wednesday
Jan062010

"...why don’t we just nationalize the nuclear industry like the French?"

Roger Witherspoon's "Nuclear Power and the Bottomless Bank: Envisioning a Nuclear Future--Funded by Taxpayer Dollars" in EMagazine spells out the financial and radiological risks being pushed in Congress at the nuclear industry's behest.

Wednesday
Jan062010

Post-mortem on South Texas Project new reactor deal "meltdown"

"Operation:CPS--The mysterious death of a done nuclear deal" by Greg Harmon in the San Antonio CURRENT provides an extensive analysis of the unraveling of the business partnership between the City of San Antonio's municipal utility CPS Energy and NRG Energy/Toshiba. The proposal to build two new Toshiba-Westinghouse "Advanced Boiling Water Reactors" (ABWRs) at the Bay City, Texas site near the Gulf of Mexico suffered a major blow when it was revealed in October that CPS Energy's cost estimate for the project was $4-5 billion too low, something that Dr. Arjun Makhijani and other critics had predicted years earlier, as Harmon reports:

"With CPS on the hook for its 50 percent of the project until a buyer is found or a resolution is negotiated with NRG and NINA, to date there is one clear winner: the opposition — especially the opponents who questioned the project’s cost estimates from the beginning.

In the spring of 2007, NRG had just raised its estimate for the STP expansion from $6 billion to $8 billion to stay in line with Toshiba. But on the steps of City Hall, anti-nuclear forces issued what has turned out to be a prescient warning to the City Council: Costs were likely to cruise at least $4 billion higher— to at least $12 billion and possibly up to $17.5 billion, according to work performed by Arjun Makhijani of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research.

“We want [the City Council] to take their time to look at the real numbers … and to get the right information,” said SEED’s Hadden at the time, who added that it would be the ratepayers of San Antonio who would be stuck with the consequences of bad or manipulated math.

A second analysis later suggested the final figure could even top $20 billion. This soothsaying ability allowed members of Energía Mía and Southwest Workers Union to sing a re-tuned “Deck the Halls,” called the “We Told Ya So Jingle,” outside CPS Energy’s downtown offices this past December: Doctor Arjun Makhijani/ Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha/ He predicted costs arising/ Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha/ City Council didn’t listen/ Ha ha, etc./ See Toshiba’s eyes a’glisten/ Ha ha, etc."

Revealing the deep-rooted flaws in the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Loan Guarantee Program for new atomic reactors, DOE had selected the South Texas Project Units 3 and 4 as  a top candidate for receiving taxpayer-backed loan guarantees before the CPS "meltdown" came to light.

Thanks to Eliza Brown, Clean Energy Advocate at the Sustainable Energy & Economic Development (SEED) Coalition in Austin, Texas for calling this article to our attention.